Friday 28 September 2018
On 12 September 2018, the State of the European Union address marked the final stage of the European Commission’s mandate and the approaching of the next legislative term. With less than nine months to go until the European Parliament elections in May 2019, the immediate period ahead will be crucial for Jean-Claude Juncker and his Commissioners to deliver on important political and legislative files for the agri-food sector.
Before the upcoming European elections, several legislative votes will be closely scrutinized, as they represent some of the main political issues for the European Union in 2019. These proposals include the UK withdrawal agreement (Brexit) and the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) - within the broader framework of the EU long-term budget (MFF).
Despite the recent ‘Brexit turmoil’ over the ‘Irish question’ (future border between Ireland and Northern Ireland) and the rules of economic cooperation, the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March 2019. The UK withdrawal agreement, once reached, will certainly have significant implications for the EU agri-food sector and the CAP.
The UK is a significant net contributor to the CAP, allocating around €3 billion a year. This considerable financial loss in the EU budget will compel either less expenditure or higher contributions by the EU27. Moreover, if the EU and the UK cannot reach an agreement on trade, tariffs on food will be imposed.
In this context, a positive element is the importance given by British agricultural producers to the European market. This suggests that the UK would likely refer to EU rules on product labelling, food safety, animal health and welfare after Brexit.
The European Commission taskforce and the British government are expected to conclude Brexit negotiations this fall. The European Parliament, which is not formally involved in the negotiations will have to approve the agreement by a simple majority of the votes cast.
In the CAP reform, that is part of the measures foreseen in the Commission’s Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027, gaps still remain as the European Parliament and the Council could by no means agree on the Commission’s proposal, which implies a severe cut of around 15% to the overall CAP budget. For the Commission, the rationale behind the reduction of the CAP budget is, once again, Brexit. With no more contributions from the UK, the MFF will cut into one traditional policy that constitutes a significant source of funding for European farmers while focusing more on other future challenges: security and migration, climate, youth, R&I. Despite the fact that an agreement seems hard to reach, both co-legislators recognise the need to reform the CAP and to make it more modern and beneficial for farmers.
Overall, evidence suggests that the European institutions have been implementing the Juncker Commission’s initiatives over the past five years, but further efforts still need to be made. With less than nine months to go until the next parliamentary elections, the European Union needs to prove that Europe can deliver for its citizens when and where it matters.
Modern meeting room for 18 people. Catering can be provided.